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I work at a software provider. It's a young startup and it's my first job out of academia (I was a researcher before).

This being my first job at a company, needless to say, I was little knowledgeable at the technical stack and actual deployment nitty gritty, but I've developed them enough to be productive at my job (I'm a data scientist) and was recently promoted to a higher position where I lead a team of people.

I have had the feeling I face a lot of difficulty in getting ideas green-lit and having a group of people work on implementing them. It could be to do with my way of speaking, which can come off as lacking confidence, as I have a tendency to speak really low.

I've gotten feedback I lack the right "posture". I really want to improve in this regard and look more confident about my ideas so that I can see them implemented and have people get behind them, short of doing it all myself.

Could you give me some tips on how to appear more confident, and present better my ideas so that I can convince people they are worth doing?

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    Or play to your strengths. If you can present a project with a working minimum viable project (MVP), it removes a LOT of fear about feasibility and the unknown.
    – Nelson
    Jul 28, 2022 at 13:09
  • Do your ideas solve a business need or accomplish a business goal?
    – joeqwerty
    Jul 28, 2022 at 15:21
  • The 2 ways a project gets approval: #1 - It makes money. #2 - It saves money. Either way, if you can describe and quantify your project idea into a substantial movement in either #1 or #2, it'll get approved. Everything else is unlikely to move forward. Jul 30, 2022 at 19:24

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Confidence is important, as it shows that you believe in the idea, but the most important part of getting things greenlit is understanding who you are pitching the idea to, and tailoring the pitch to them. If you confidently explain the details of the end user benefits of the new UI to the CFO, your idea is going nowhere because the CFO only cares about how much it will cost and the benefits are not something they consider to be important because they don't get graded on their job by how happy end users are.

Obviously, the first step is getting your direct supervisor to see the merits, and middle managers can be all over the place in terms of what they believe is important (some only care about costs, others about time investments, others on end user impacts, and let's face it, some of them only care about things that make their own jobs easier or care about unimportant things that don't matter to anyone). It will take some time to fully understand what your boss wants to see in a pitch, but once you have a good idea of what they are looking for in a pitch you can start tailoring.

It also helps to get some buy in from peers or subordinates first, as they can help you with the pitch in a group setting. This is especially helpful if one of them is a great public speaker already.

Once you've gotten the first approval from your boss, ask them what they think the higher ups will want to see (Someone up there will ALWAYS want to see the ROI in hard numbers, so definitely have that ready to go. You may need to enlist others if you don't have good data available to predict revenue/cost savings). Just as you need an idea of what your boss wants, your boss should have an idea about what their boss wants.

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When you talk about getting ideas 'green-lit' presumably you are referring to getting them endorsed by higher-level management, but you also refer to getting people to work on them, which implies getting your staff on-board with your proposals.

These are 2 separate problems, with separate solutions:

With regard to higher management, do get them involved in the decision-making process. Be quite candid in your proposals, indicating any concerns you may have. Maybe suggest multiple ways of addressing a particular problem; you may have a preferred method, but if you are even-handed in the way you present the options, then they take part of the responsibility of making the correct decision.

With regard to the staff, you really must present a confident approach to them, whatever your misgivings. This problem isn't unique to yourself, we all feel a lack of confidence at times, and have to bluff our way through a situation, whilst feeling a bit concerned (or maybe really scared) inside. There are various methods to improve assertiveness, through leadership training, and maybe these could help you - something quite modest could set you on the right path of assertiveness, and once you lose the fear of doing the 'wrong' thing, you'll find the process of achieving results through your staff to be quite rewarding. Good luck!

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Wanted to add to the two other answers that this:

Could you give me some tips on how to appear more confident, and present better my ideas so that I can convince people they are worth doing?

... is a "hard problem" in a sense that there isn't a single all-encompassing solution, and it boils down to an age-old:

How to be persuasive

With everyone from Dale Carnegie to ad writers pitching magic sauces to you.

(There's a very dark side to it too: most persuasion techniques are manipulative - because they have to be - resulting in populism and bringing down societies, and have to be offset by the other required components of a well functioning team: transparency, accountability, reflection, diversity, inclusion.)

So I wouldn't feel bad about lack of outward confidence or even feeling like you're not persuasive enough. To me, self-reflection and the feeling of doing the right thing is far more important - and possibly even more effective long term.

I'd focus on a few things:

  • research persuasion techniques (including in speech, writing, business, science, tech, etc.) and rather than try to apply any or all of them - see which ones appeal to you personally, and feel like the right way of doing things;
  • find allies - the kind who'd tell you straight to your face when they feel you're doing something wrong; they can help you get a different perspective on pitching your ideas and shaping them up to be more effective
  • keep a list of your ideas and revisit them often - with asking (and answering) questions like: what are the benefits of this? What happens if we don't do this? What is the cost of this? Could someone play a devil's advocate on this and try to convince me and the team the idea is not worth pursuing?
  • Assess your team's and company's willingness and openness to ground level initiative. Some teams and companies just aren't set up that way - as in, "this is your manager's job" to pitch ideas and execute projects. Perhaps it's not you - it's them? If that's the case - see what worked in similar situations in the past: has anyone pitched similar ideas that got green lit in your team or company? What made it click? (Personality? Knowing someone who knows someone? Persuasiveness? What kind? The quality of the idea? Anything else?)
  • Ask yourself (and the team, and revisit often): what are the team's top long term priorities? Only then you can reliably assess the potential benefits of your idea or project: would it advance one of the team's top priorities? Is it directly relevant to them? If it's an emphatic "yes" - there's your persuasion angle. If not: revise, refocus, revisit?

Hope this helps!

P.S. Perhaps the last point - about team's long term priorities and goals - should be the first. Just started reading up on Theory of Change - and identifying those long term goals and priorities seems to be the first step:

It does this by first identifying the desired long-term goals and then works back from these to identify all the conditions (outcomes) that must be in place (and how these related to one another causally) for the goals to occur.

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